Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Red lentil stew worth an inheritance

Considering the bible story of Jacob persuading his brother Esau to sell him his firstborn’s inheritance rights for a lunch of lentil stew (“pottage”), you might be tempted to think that lentil stew wasn’t worth much.  But I’m here to tell you that lentils can make a mighty comforting dinner.

Healthy and nutritious, packed with protein and bursting with meaty flavor, these tiny legumes can make a filling meal. They come in a pretty variety of colors, but I’m particularly fond of red lentils, which cook up fairly quickly into a comforting stew. Or pottage, if an inheritance is at stake.

Not long ago, I built a pilaf-style dish with a mix of red lentils, lima beans and basmati rice cooked with aromatic flavors.  Tonight I tried this approach without the rice and was delighted with the result, a quick and simple stew, satisfying and loaded with flavor.

To make enough for two, I rinsed 1/2 cup of red lentils very well in several changes of water, then set them aside to drain in a strainer while I browned 1 cup of sliced onions with about 1/2 tablespoon each of minced garlic and fresh ginger.  When the onions were brown and aromatic, I stirred in the drained lentils, 1 cup of thawed frozen lima beans, and 1 cup water. I brought it up to a simmer and added another cup of flavoring mix made with 1 tablespoon tomato paste, 1 tablespoon chili sauce, a dash of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of chopped green chiles and enough water to bring the total up to 1 cup.

Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are soft but retain their shapes and the liquid is absorbed. (Add a little water if needed.)  Check seasonings and salt to taste only at the end of cooking.

Hey, Esau! What’ll you give me for a bowl of this delicious pottage?